It is an abstract painting in the Neo-Expressionism style and pays tribute to jazz musician Charlie Parker, who Basquiat idolised. The loosely arranged complexity of this picture shows a chicken or yard-bird, a nickname by which Parker was known. The spontaneous disarray of shapes and symbols seem to mimic the improvised jazz compositions of Charlie Parker's playing style. There is an almost spiritual primitiveness in Basquiat's art, and he liked to paint with an audience. The words 'Para Morir' which translates as 'To Die' are present, as are the words ‘Green Wood’ above a cemetery. Green-Wood is where Basquiat was born, and the cemetery is his last resting place.
Born in Brooklyn in 1960, Jean-Michel was the son of a middle-class Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother. He was a very forward child, being able to read and write at four years of age, he became fluent in English, Spanish and French at eleven. After his parents had separated and his mother committed to a mental institution, Jean-Michel dropped out of school and ran away from home. Staying with friends in Brooklyn, he started creating artwork to sell on the streets to support himself.
At the age of sixteen, Basquiat began producing graffiti using spray-paint in Lower Manhattan, using the alias SAMO. Later he went on to form a rock band which performed at various New York clubs. He met the famous artist Andy Warhol at a restaurant and showed Warhol samples of his artwork. Warhol was so impressed by Basquiat's talent that they worked together on a series of projects. With the benefits of his association with Warhol, Jean-Michel's work appeared at a multi-artist exhibition on The Times Square Show, and this introduced Basquiat’s work to the wider art world.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was a very prolific artist and produced many paintings in the same Neo-Expressionism style as Bird on Money. Titles of his paintings include Dustheads, Hollywood Africans, Horn Players, and Trumpet. Work produced in collaboration with Andy Warhol include Arm and Hammer, and Ten Punching Bags. In only a few years Basquiat rose to fame that was to exceed by far his short lifetime, which was sadly ended by a heroin overdose in 1988.